It’s never too early for children to think about what they’d like to be when they grow up. Fort Huachuca youth enrolled in Fort Huachuca’s School-Age Center, or SAC, explored several different careers last month.
During three consecutive Tuesdays in July, SAC personnel hosted a “Career Day Series.” It featured visits from local professionals who shared job information with 90 children, kindergarten through 5th grade. The guests also answered questions about their jobs and what led to their career choices.
Erin Schnitger, school liaison officer, said she organized this special program as a way to teach children about the many jobs available within the Fort Huachuca community.
“Students are very unaware of the [career] opportunities surrounding them,” Schnitger explained. “They were able to get one-on-one insight from career professionals.”
During each Tuesday career event, students were broken down into three groups and rotated through three stations where they met with personnel in three different fields for 20-minute sessions. Altogether, they were able to explore nine different careers.
During the first week, on July 9, the presenters included a lawyer, two veterinarians and a public affairs specialist.
Lt. Col. Christine Schverak, deputy Staff Judge Advocate, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, or USAICoE, and Fort Huachuca spoke about a career in law and the judicial system.
Capt. Valarie Wadeck and Dr. Bonnelyn Thwaits, Fort Huachuca Animal Clinic veterinarians, described their jobs, the kinds of animals and medical conditions vet clinic personnel treat. They also described the differences between caring for animals and humans.
Tanja Linton, media relations officer for the Fort Huachuca Public Affairs Office, spoke about journalism, the importance of making information accessible, and the use of technology in her job.
Guests from Youth Sports and Fitness, two national park rangers and a physical therapist met with the children on July 16.
Taylor Ferrarin, Youth Sports and Fitness Program associate, spoke about her degree in parks and recreation management and possible career opportunities within that field.
Ranger Jamie Geesling, a park ranger from Coronado National Memorial, presented information about careers in working with wildlife in the national parks. Ranger Fredrick James joined her.
Capt. Rebecca Greenwood, physical therapist, Fort Huachuca Medical Command, demonstrated different exercises to increase strength and mobility.
Week three, July 23, featured firefighters, a U.S. Army captain, and military police dog handlers with their K-9 working dogs.
Chris Mercer and Juan Zamora, Fort Huachuca firefighters, spoke about their role within the community and the variety of services they provide. They also presented a “show and tell” segment highlighting their equipment and clothing, suiting up in firefighting gear.
Capt. Burke Manwaring, executive officer for Training, Development and Support, USAICoE, described the route he took to become an Army officer and the variety of career opportunities within the Army.
Five Soldiers from the Fort Huachuca K-9 Military Working Dog Unit, 18th Military Police Detachment, provided an overview of the training the dogs receive and gave a demonstration of their working dogs’ skills. Staff Sgt. Jason Joye, Staff Sgt. John Mariana, Pfc. Sean Hubbard, Pfc. Richard Treloar and Pvt. Anthony Jordan met with the students and explained dog handlers’ roles.
“The kids were excited; the presenters sparked their interest,” Schnitger explained. She said that students who were interested in working with animals did not know there was more than one direction they could take. Having visitors with three different animal-related careers helped the youth realize this.
The presenters also explained how they chose their current career fields. Many had the same story of trial and error – starting college studying one subject, and then switching to another. A common theme amongst presenters was the “light bulb” moment – that moment in their lives when everything “clicked” and they knew their current careers were the right ones for them.
Schnitger said it is important that children know it’s OK not to know what they are going to do when they grow up, and that they might change their minds several times during the process of finding their career paths.
“The kids were excited. I could hear them in the hallways wondering who they would be [meeting] next,” she said.
It wasn’t only the youth who enjoyed the series. The teachers were interested, too.
“They could base [some of] their lessons for the week off the career days,” Schnitger explained.
Two overarching messages resonated with the children and the teachers – that there is always something new to learn, and to never stop until you find a job that you love to do.